Interviewing multidisciplinary artist: Duckman Design


May I introduce you to Jose Carlos Conde Acuaviva, aka Duckman Design, a Spanish graphic designer and multidisciplinary artist with over 20 years.
Duckman is currently in the middle of a creative project that has taken him to Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Malta, Lebanon, and soon Turkey or Iran, among other countries.

 
[Para leer la entrevista a José Carlos Conde Acuaviva en Español, por favor da click en el link]

1. LuceBuona: Thank your for taking the time off to answer this interview. As far as I understand  you come from a family of artists, and your father was a sculptor, so since you were pretty young you became familiar with what creativity put to action looks like, but was there a time in which you considered a different path or proffession away from the art and the creativity?
José: Hi Luz, first of all thank you for your interest in my career path, and it is a real pleasure to share my experience with you and your readers. That's right, at home there were always paintings and sculptures around, and I would see my father working every day  on his workshop or my mom in her personal projects. Also, my grandmother used to paint, and my uncle was a sculptor, and most recently my cousin Helen Aquaviva started with her promising artistic career.
However, although I started to draw and paint murals in my adolescence I never thought I would have a profession on the creative sector. Twenty years ago I didn't have an idea of what reality was like, and for a long time, I was convinced that the art or creativity was not the best professional path to achieve stability. That caused me to be lost for some years without really knowing what to do. During that time I did some art projects that I alternated with jobs that I landed as a field picker, as a laborer, as a stable boy and as a salesman at a clothing store. These experiences were vital for understanding the reality of the labor market and life in general. It was a vital stage for growing up and I take pride in it.

It was when I attended an occupational vocational training course for Web page Design, when I realized that design could be my professional path. After focusing professionally and using my artistic and creative skills for some time, I decided to expand my knowledge. I enrolled at the University to study Design while also attending a course on bodyworks, where I learned many techniques that I used in my artistic projects. Ever since I have worked exclusively in the creative sector.
         More recently before starting my trip, I had some doubts about my career path. Currently, one of my objectives is to try and participate in other professions. I understand that one's reality is due to life's circumstances, and I decided, in a proactive way, to try other jobs. But the truth is that recovering my passion for painting has become a priority, and I also see that it is a way in which I can be of greater help along with my design skills.


Pollo con gorra, 2007. Illustration by Duckman Design.


2. LuceBuona: Please tell us about your collaborations... I can't help but flaunt that José has collaborated with many artists, among which we can find the postminimalist Mexican, Gabriel Orozco. I remember watching a documentary on Orozco's art, in which a specific piece created from a red Citroen car, which he cut in half and reassembled in a more compact size, and I thought was very clever and witty... and 10 years after I met you, it turns out that you had the chance to work with him and be part of the magic behind Dark Wave!
José: Yes,  the truth is that it was quite an opportunity to participate in this piece. Weeks before I was designing and building a puppet show, and one of my coworkers who really liked my work recommend me. My participation was in the production team only, but it was a good experience, and I left having learned a lot and with good friends.
Yes, Orozco is an important name, but really whom I've tended to collaborate more with local artists with whom I painted graffiti. 

Currently, and after a long period of time focusing on my projects independently, I'm planning joint projects with artists residing in the countries and cities I visit. In this sense, it is a new stage for me, and I am very curious to see how this experience evolves.

3. LuceBuona: José, you have worked with graffiti, you have painted on a variety of objects, among them a very cool Renault decorated with the Powerpuff Girls, which looks amazing, and recently you have created murals using a whole variety of materials. How would you describe your style? Is there a particular sign or trademark that we can find on your work besides the usual optimism and humor? 

José: For a long time I saw the humor as the main motive in my work. I simply liked to think of an idea that seemed very crazy and make it come true. I liked, and I still like, that people get a smile while looking at my work. That car in particular, was a spectacle. I had it with me for a few days and I seemed to be the Queen of England, everyone was staring and saying hi. Also I have always liked the contrast, and I also alternated with other pieces that were much darker, even violent. In general I have always evolved and tried new platforms, new surfaces or techniques.This has brought frustration for a while because I understood that the correct way was only to focus in one single area and develop a characteristic style. Now I don't see it that way, and I have accepted the fact that it is fine to see one's career as a learning path and a process. This makes me think and I reached the conclusion that maybe that constant change turns out to be one of my characteristics.


In the same way, I am now in a stage of change and evolution. Most of my paintings and creative work I did them about 10 years ago. Now I am a different person in some ways and the lifestyle that I started in September 2017 has made me question things and has generated a need to express myself. The materials that I am creating now are the result of the observation of the places and people that I come across with. Through them, I try to show the reality of the places that I didn't know before reaching them, and in some cases express my opinion about certain conflicts.


Ms Chair, 2008. Upcycled chair by Duckman Design.

4. LuceBuona: In 2017, you started a new stage in your professional life by venturing into this journey of artistic and cultural exploration, leaving behind the comfort and stability of your position as a multimedia designer. Thanks to social media we have been able to see your works, the process of creating some murals, videos on the daily life and food of the places you have visited, and your illustrations... and to be honest, I'm thrilled! Can you share with us what was that convinced you or encouraged you to take the decision of to challenge yourself, and go out to see other cultures and take your art to other countries?

José: My life in London was fine. Simply fine. Though it was comfortable, I never seemed to get to where I wanted professionally and that each stage seemed to be part of a sacrifice for a final good; find the dream job as a Motion Designer. I had been doing this for several years and I felt that my creativity was rock bottom. I began to ask myself if I was following the right path. In the beginning, I considered it as a way to sustain myself while I was progressing in the field of Motion Graphics. I knew I wanted to spend a season at a different part of the world, but in the end, I thought of making a country-by-country route to finally reach  South Africa and Namibia. I thought it would be awesome, while I was growing professionally, I could get inspired and travel the world. 
I am a methodic person, I don't take decisions lightly, so I did some research of my options, so I made calculations, I accepted the risks and discovered that in theory, it was possible and that it could actually work. Until now, with some differences from the original plan, it seems that I was right.

A sheperd photographs the portrait that José did for him in Dana, Jordan.

However "bringing my art" was never part of the equation. Yes, I did think of drawing and recording videos, but the idea of leaving my mark on these destinations came in later. It was while my first experience with workaway in Athens, where I offered my artistic skills through the Under the Spotlight mural when I remembered how happy painting makes me.
I started to look for more collaborations like this one, and once I reached Amman, within a month I painted four murals with
local graffiti artist, an NGO, and a social project. I really enjoyed it so I decided to keep doing it systematically.


5. LuceBuona: In your Facebook fanpage we can find videos that document your trip so far, and there was one in particular about Palestine that caught my attention. For some time I have been wanting to visit the zone, in part because of my interest in the Muslim culture, and I also have some empathy that I have for Palestinians and their complicated political and social situation. How was your stay in Palestine? Do you believe that your experience changed the previous idea you had about this Nation? 
José: I like that you ask me about this place, that without a doubt it is the most intense destination I've been and that it has left a mark on me the most so far.  I can´t describe my stay in Palestine without referring to Israel. My intention in that region was to explore and in the most impartial possible way, try to understand the situation. The truth is that we don't have any idea of what it is Palestine and its reality. I say so considering the good and the bad. When I crossed from Israel to Palestine the first time, I was expecting to find a war zone, the refugee camps, and absolute poverty, and it wasn't like that. What I saw after going through the checkpoint area and its awful separation wall, was people walking down the street, a billboard advertising fried chicken and buildings all around. The truth is that Palestinians - despite all of their situation that could be improved deeply - live in a society that seems to function normally. What I mean is that they still have highways, universities, shops, they go out, they laugh... Also, you can witness many forms of injustice because of their culture, the Palestine Authority or because of Israel, and you can hear stories that can sometimes be very harsh.
At the end, it turned out to be a very enriching and inspiring experience thanks to my local contacts and visitors. I could spend hours writing about it. Also, three months seem like a short period of time to get to know people well and the complex reality of the zone, or even to enjoy the fascinating Palestine hospitality. That is the reason why I want to go back in the future and work in artistic projects there.
         Something peculiar that happened when visiting London after coming back from Palestine, is when I attended a demonstration against the UK selling arms to Israel and condemning the murderer of the
paramedic Razan El’Najjar by the hands of Israel militia. That's when I noticed that the last time I was at a demonstration to support the palestinians, that I didn't really had much of an idea on the details and reality of the region. In that moment realized that still, it was the right thing, just as I confirmed once I visited Palestine. Either way, I did change my perception and now I know the difference between the Palestinian Authority, the palestinians and, their interests.  


6. LuceBuona: If you could give advice to the ones who are considering on pursuing a career in visual arts, and that are still lingering on taking their first step out of the comfort zone, what would you suggest?
José: There are many ways to develop professionally, and everyone has their own. I believe that studying is easier and leads to more opportunities. But if you don't have the resources, now through the internet you can learn anything, though is harder. With lots of efforts, you can make it wherever you want. But I do believe you need to have a plan, and to know which steps you will take to get there. We are not always right, and sometimes we can derail because of opportunities that show up, but either way, we have to keep going forward.
I don't do anything in life without informing myself, asking and checking data or different opinions. I search for information on the internet and always talk about things with my friends and family. I also ask people that I know understand the subject, either at an event or meeting or through the internet. If I am going to venture into a new stage I want to know that people that already in think about, and also the ones that are completely foreign. That is how I decided to study and become a graphic designer, to move to London or starting this current nomad stage.

       Specifically, on leaving the comfort zone, I would say that you have to let go of fear. You have to look for a motivation to give you the strength to do something. Sometimes to you have to take a little momentum to take a leap in life. And if you fall down it's easy. You get up and jump again.
 
St. Nikolai-Kirche, Hamburgo. Watercolor by Duckman Design.

7. LuceBuona: Lastly José, I would like to ask you to share with us a funny or inspiring anecdote related to your work or the creative process.
José: So, what first come to my mind is a gift I gave one of my friends, Daira. We met in London and we became very fond of each other. When she moved to Wales with her boyfriend, I wanted to give her something so I designed, printed and framed a  poster for her. When our friends saw the design, and before I sent it to my friend, they though it was outrageous and that she would be annoyed since I made her the Whatsapp's poop icon in such a large poster! I was convinced that I knew her and her humor well enough for her to like it... the truth is that she really liked it, but still mentioned that she would have liked it better without the hearts.
Now the poster is hanging on their wall and when her nephews come visit they ask her to show them the "chocolate cream" poster... Poor kids when they realize what it really is!

LuceBuona: Thank you again for your time and your thoughtfullness José it has been grate to put together this brief recap of your artistic journey. In these times in which social media can bring to us bad news and tragedies at an eerie speed, the expressions and artistic works that manage to light a smile in our face, like your documentary videos and your  illustrations , must be shared and enjoyed!

If you want to see more of Duckman Design , make sure you visit and and follow him on:
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